1. Florida Politics

First-in-nation dog training ordinance ready for vote in Hillsborough County

Sarge, a Shih Tzu-Pekingese, died two years ago after a training incident went awry at pet day care, according to the owner, Lorie Childers. Hillsborough County commissioners will decide whether to enact new dog training regulations on Nov. 15. [Courtesy of Lorie Childers]
Published Nov. 13, 2017

TAMPA — Dog trainers would have to obtain a license and agree to training plans with owners under an ordinance Hillsborough County commissioners will consider Wednesday.

County officials have called the proposed regulations for dog trainers, dubbed Truth in Training, the first of their kind in the country. Trainers would have to provide their credentials to the county for publication and have liability insurance of at least $100,000.

They also must undergo local and federal background checks. Trainers convicted of animal cruelty would be barred from working in the county.

"It gives the consumer that peace of mind when making that decision," County Commissioner Al Higginbotham said at a Nov. 1 board meeting. A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Wednesday and a vote may follow.

At the last commission meeting, opponents of the proposal came out in full force, countering advocates who filled an October commission meeting to rally support for the ordinance. Many speakers at the November meeting were animal trainers, in similar professions or their allies, who criticized the legislation as restrictive and burdensome to small businesses.

Kendall Duncan of Canine Cabana in Riverview said the new license would give dog owners a "false sense of security because a trainer is registered with Hillsborough County" even though "there are no standards set forth and there's no one overseeing this process."

Others questioned if it was necessary.

"Pet resources within the last four years has closed 16,826 dog abuse cases and not one was related to dog training," said Judy Seltrecht, an appointed member of the county's animal advisory committee. She asked commissioners to send the ordinance back to her panel for further review.

But Higginbotham, who has shepherded the ordinance through the commission, wanted to push ahead.

He said criticism of the proposal was born out of a misunderstanding of its scope. It would not prohibit trainers from using certain techniques or practices. Instead, the trainer and the dog owner would have to sign off on a training plan at the onset. It is intended to prevent trainers from using what some may deem forceful tactics without permission.

Veterinarians, service dog trainers, shelters and nonprofit or volunteer organizations would be exempt.

Four violations of the ordinance would result in a revocation of a business' license, though an incident in which an animal is severely harmed could mean immediate shutdown.

"It doesn't take away training tools," Higginbotham said. "It's a transparent way for the consumer and the trainer and their furry loved one to have input on what the training is."

The catalyst for the ordinance is Lorie Childers of Land O'Lakes, or, more precisely, Sarge, her Shih Tzu-Pekingese-mix puppy. Sarge was fatally injured at a pet day care two years ago, Childers said, after an impromptu training session went awry.

Childers has lobbied the county and the state in the past year to prevent future dog injuries.

"We have to start somewhere," she told the Tampa Bay Times earlier this year. "The trainers I'm working with want regulation. They're all for it, they just want it to be done so it's meaningful."

Drafting the ordinance took 10 months, half a year longer than expected, in part because no other municipality has similar legislation on the books to model, said DeBora Cromartie-Mincey, senior assistant county attorney.

"This is going to give an opportunity for Hillsborough County to get on the map," Cromartie-Mincey said.

Contact Steve Contorno at or (813) 226-3433. Follow @scontorno.


  1. Courtney Wild, 30, was a victim of serial sexual offender Jeffrey Epstein beginning at the age of 14. Epstein paid Wild, and many other underage girls, to give him massages, often having them undress and perform sexual acts. Epstein also used the girls as recruiters, paying them to bring him other underage girls. Courtesy of Royal Caribbean
    Courtney Wild’s relentless quest for justice has led to a bipartisan push for sweeping reforms.
  2. Scott Israel, former Broward County Sheriff speaks during a news conference on Sept. 25, in Davie. A Florida Senate official is recommending that the sheriff, suspended over his handling of shootings at a Parkland high school and the Fort Lauderdale airport, should be reinstated. BRYNN ANDERSON  |  AP
    Naples lawyer Dudley Goodlette was threatened shortly after he made his recommendation last month.
  3. Rep. Jamie Grant, R- Tampa and Senator Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg listen to Amendment 4 debate in the Florida Senate on Thursday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “I think some of the points of the judge were well-made," Sen. Jeff Brandes said.
  4. Tiffany Carr — shown during a 2004 visit to a Hollywood nail salon, where she spoke on domestic violence — did not respond this past week to requests from the Miami Herald to address her $761,560 annual salary. She is head of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. [Bob Eighmie Miami Herald file photo]
    The Florida Department of Children and Families started a review of a domestic violence nonprofit’s finances last summer after it was reported that its CEO Tiffany Carr was paid $761,000. The state...
  5. Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
    Details are still scant, but the House’s tone was one of being fiscally cautious as they evaluate DeSantis’ pitch to raise base teacher pay.
  6. Igor Fruman - Lev Parnas Miami Herald
    Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — now subpoenaed to turn over documents in the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump — sought to invest in one of Florida’s state-issued cannabis licenses.
  7. Term-limited GOP Commissioner Sandy Murman is filed in the clerk’s race but may not run there. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
    At this point, William March writes, there are no declared Republican candidates for the open clerk of court and tax collector seats or the two open county commission seats.
  8. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  9. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, announces his education proposals in front of Franklin Middle Magnet School in Tampa last month. He says he wants to reduce "bureaucratic waste and administrative inefficiency" in Florida schools. But many educators say their budgets are already cut to the bone. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    DeSantis said Wednesday he will call for expanding state oversight of septic tanks, developing better oversight of wastewater and stormwater systems and requiring the state to track agricultural...
  10. In this Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, file photo, a woman using an electronic cigarette exhales in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File) TONY DEJAK  |  AP
    “We’re looking at it, we’re going to be thorough in our investigation, and we will hold accountable any companies that are intentionally targeting and misleading our youth regarding vaping products,”...